Food costs are up and paychecks are down. Fortunately, there are recipes and general tricks that will help you keep your budget while feeding your family relatively healthy meals. Here are some ideas you can take to the store, as well as six family dinners to serve a family of six for less than six dollars.
Overall Tricks to Save Money on Food
Buy on Sale
When something is on sale, I always buy however much I can afford. If meat is marked down under a dollar a pound, it pays to buy a lot and freeze the rest. Just make sure you have the room. Buy canned items when they go on sale, as they have a much longer shelf life and can be thrown into recipes when you're running out of staples at home. Tuna is the perfect cheap protein. Tuna casserole, tuna melts, tuna salads — are all affordable options when money's tight.
Even little bits of leftover hot dog, casserole, onion, and rice can be used in a versatile dish like fritatta. Leftover veggies can be thrown in soups and pureed into sauces. Also, cook what you have before you cook what you want. If you force yourself to make something you already have, rather than making a run to the store, you're saving money. Even if you have cereal for dinner one night, you'll be better off financially than heading to the store. Every store run costs you money. Use what you have until your weekly shopping trip comes up. Get creative.
Use Inexpensive Animal Protein, or Skip It
Tuna was already mentioned, but think outside the box. Beans and rice create a perfect protein and will shave dollars off your budget. Also, buy the end bits of bacon. Cook them in a pan and use the grease to saute onions and add flavor to rice dishes. A little goes a long way. Use the cooked bacon in omelets, rice, spaghetti sauce, everything that can use a kick.
6 Dinners to Make Under $6
A pack of spaghetti noodles, and homemade mushroom sauce, will serve six with enough for leftovers. To make the sauce, sauté a garlic clove in a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add a can of tomato sauce, a tablespoon of tomato paste, salt and pepper, basil and oregano to taste, and you have a cheap, tasty pasta dish.
Fried Egg Over Spanish Rice
This is a tasty staple we live by when cash is tight. Put two cups of rice in the rice cooker. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste, a teaspoon oil, a garlic clove and salt and pepper to taste. Add cumin, cilantro, and cook according to directions. (You can also just cook with a half cup of salsa.) Fry eggs on the side. When the rice is done, serve the egg on top and garnish with cilantro. (I always eat this with ketchup. Trust me on this.)
Buy eggs in bulk and use them. A dozen eggs will serve about four people. If you add things like sliced potatoes, you can stretch the meal even further. Use the leftovers in the fridge and make this a "dump" specialty. Leftover Fritatta recipe.
Beans make this hearty feast inexpensive and filling. You can make it ahead of time in the crock pot to save some cash as well as time. Last Minute Chili
Potato and split pea come to mind as soups that have low cost and lots of stretch. You can also do a lentil soup, if your kids will allow it. Use the leftovers and throw everything at these soups. Also, use the bacon ends and pieces for split pea soup and to make a savory potato without the heavy cream.
Corn Dog Muffins
Corn dogs are great, but corn dog muffins are more fun. Serve these with rice on the side for a frugal dinner that will become the kids' favorite.
I left meatloaf off the list because I believe that just because you're broke doesn't mean you deserve to be punished. That said, if you happen to like meatloaf, it happens to be a very affordable option. I would rather eat raw lentils, personally, but that's just me.